Alison Weir

Traitors of the Tower



1. Lord Hastings (1483) The King's Loyal Friend

2. Queen Anne Boleyn (1536) 'I Have a Little Neck'

3. Margaret Pole, Countess of Salisbury (1541) Hacked to Death

4. Queen Katherine Howard (1542) 'Rose Without a Thorn'

5. Jane Parker, Lady Rochford (1542) The 'Wicked Wife'

6. Lady Jane Grey (1554) The Nine-Days' Queen

7. Robert Devereux, Earl of Essex (1601) 'Strike Home!'

Traitors of the Tower

Alison Weir was born in London, England, and went to the City of London School. Her great love of history started when she read her first novel. Later, she trained as a teacher. She now lives and works in Surrey and her books include Britain's Royal Families, The Six Wives of Henry VIII and Mary Queen of Scots and the Murder of Lord Darnley. She has also published two novels, Innocent Traitor and The Lady Elizabeth.

Also by Alison Weir


Britain's Royal Families: The Complete Genealogy

The Six Wives of Henry VIII The Princes in the Tower

Lancaster and York: The Wars of the Roses

Children of England: The Heirs of King Henry VIII 1547–1558

Elizabeth the Queen

Eleanor of Aquitaine

Henry VIII: King and Court

Mary Queen of Scots and the Murder of Lord Darnley

Isabella: She Wolf of France, Queen of England

Katherine Swynford: The Story of John of Gaunt and His Scandalous Duchess

The Lady in The Tower: The Fall of Anne Boleyn


Innocent Traitor

The Lady Elizabeth

Traitors of the Tower


In the Tower of London, between 1483 and 1601, seven famous traitors lost their heads. Visitors are often drawn to the scaffold site on Tower Green where they are said to have died. In fact, five were put to death in a different place within the Tower, in front of what is now the Waterloo Barracks.

This book tells the grim and tragic stories of the traitors who died in the Tower.

Chapter One

Lord Hastings (1483) - The King's Loyal Friend

Lord Hastings was the loyal friend of King Edward IV, the first monarch of the House of York. He helped Edward all his life, and shared his tastes for women and good food. Born around 1431, he came from a good Yorkshire family that had long supported the House of York against the House of Lancaster during the Wars of the Roses. In 1461 he had fought for Edward at the Battle of Towton, which gained Edward the throne. Hastings was given his title, vast lands and a seat on the royal council. He was also made a Knight of the Garter. He married Katherine, the sister of Warwick, 'the King-Maker', the man who had helped set Edward up as king.

Hastings was well liked by all. People praised his sense of duty, his charity and his love of the arts. He had great power and wealth, more than many of higher rank, and people only got to see the King with Hastings' favour. But his power, and his wenching with the King, earned him the hatred of the Queen, Elizabeth Wydeville. Her family were his rivals for royal favour, and his deadly foes. Hastings was also rivals with Lord Dorset, the Queen's elder son, for the love of Elizabeth Shore, the King's mistress.

In April 1483, Edward IV died at the early age of forty-one. On his deathbed, he ordered Hastings, the Queen and Dorset to make peace, which they made a show of doing. Edward's son and heir was just twelve years old, so in his will he named his brother, Richard, Duke of Gloucester, as Lord Protector while the boy was too young to rule. But Gloucester was in the north, and after Edward had died, the Queen tried to seize power. Hastings was well aware that she might now take revenge on him, but his main concern was for the new young King, Edward V.

Edward V was then at Ludlow Castle on the Welsh border. As Prince of Wales, he had been learning how to rule his subjects. The Queen sent for him to come to London at once to be crowned. She wanted a great army to escort him, but Hastings thought this might provoke trouble and bloodshed. He won the day with threats against the Queen's family, the Wydevilles, and so only a small escort went with the young King.

Gloucester too feared the Wydevilles, who had not told him of his brother's death. He learned of it from Hastings, who also wrote that the Queen meant to remove him from power. He told Gloucester to hurry to London with a strong force of men, and to take Edward V into his care on the way. Hastings added that he himself was in danger from the Queen's party, and he could not wait for Gloucester to reach London.

Gloucester, wearing black for his brother, rode south at once with three hundred men. At Northampton, he met up with his ally, the Duke of Buckingham, and a large force. In London, Hastings told the royal council that the humble blood of the Queen and her family made them unfit to rule, and that Gloucester should govern the realm. This earned him no credit with the Wydevilles.

At Stony Stratford, Gloucester and Buckingham met up with Edward V and his escort, which was led by Earl Rivers, the Queen's brother, and her younger son, Sir Richard Grey. Gloucester and Buckingham seized the King, arrested Rivers and Grey, who were put in prison, and then rode on to London with a very shocked Edward V.

The power of the Wydevilles had been broken at a stroke. The Queen, in great fear, now took sanctuary in Westminster Abbey with her younger son, Richard, Duke of York, and her five daughters. Hastings sent a message to assure her that all would be well, but she did not believe it. He had done his best to destroy her, she said.

London was in an uproar. Hastings tried to restore calm by telling the council that Gloucester had been faithful to the dead King, Edward IV, and would now be true to Edward's son. He had only arrested Rivers and Grey for his own safety. In saying this, Hastings turned many people against the Wydevilles. But there were some on the council who were wary of Gloucester's cunning.

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